2009 Toyota HighlanderEnlarge Photo
These are good mileage numbers for a vehicle in the Highlander's class and size, and we predict that this powertrain will be a popular option for this popular SUV. Toyota's Dual VVT-i variable-valve timing (on both exhaust and intake camshafts) should ensure solid low-end torque along with good high-rpm power, though with a piston stroke more than a half-inch longer than the cylinder bore, this is not going to be a high RPM screamer. That's a good thing, and appropriate to a vehicle with a 4,050-pound base curb weight. The torquey, long-stroke four-cylinder should give the Highlander a relaxed, unstressed feel around town and up hills. This new four-cylinder also employs variable-length intake runners to improve engine breathing, and even the exhaust is routed through a dual manifold to help improve low-end torque.
The new powerplant runs on 87-octane fuel and is certified by the EPA as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEVII). Toyota calls the acceleration "surprisingly quick" at 9.7 seconds to 60 mph, and also mentions that when equipped with a tow package, the Highlander is able to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
To be certain, the Highlander four-cylinder won't win any races, but most suburban drivers are simply trying to get to work, or lug groceries, or pick up the kids from school. For these everyday duties, the torque-optimized 2.7-liter four should prove more than adequate, and even has the ability to tow a few thousand pounds for the occasional home improvement project or trip to the lake. And for the true lead feet out there, don't worry, Toyota's 3.5-liter powerhouse V-6 is still optional (EPA: 18/24 mpg).--Colin Mathews